A wellness resource for students by students
“Medical students and professionals are not immune to the same health problems that exist in the general population, and this absolutely holds true with regards to substance use disorders and addiction,” says Jeff Graham a second year medical student who, together with classmate Kelsey Watson, developed a resource that provides information to help support their peers who might be struggling with a substance use disorder or addiction.
“Our goal is to help share information specific for medical students on substance use disorders and particularly address concerns about confidentiality and the impact of identifying with this illness on a future medical career,” said Watson. The resource, now available online, offers students essential information such as how to identify substance use disorders and addictions, counselling and health resources available, and frequently asked questions that address what it means to study, train or work in the medical profession with a substance use disorder or addiction.
Watson and Graham partnered with the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA) to develop the resource for students as part of the Community, Populations and Public Health (CPPH) course. “Substance use is often not reported among medical students although we are aware it is an issue,” states Shayna Kulman-Lipsey, Manager of Counselling Services with OHPSA. “We felt this project would help break down the stigma and fear of seeking help if students knew the facts of how a substance abuse issue would be approached.”
Through the CPPH course, students complete community-based service-learning placements in partnership with community organizations to illustrate how the community acts as a partner in health. “The project offered an opportunity to take a thorough look inwards at the very community and population that we belong to; to recognize our own vulnerabilities, our own humanity, and the challenges we might face as both individuals and as a community moving forward,” continues Graham. “Recognizing this allowed us to begin thinking about ways we can proactively develop strategies and identify resources to build resilience.”
Both Watson and Graham are hopeful the resource will have a lasting impact on medical students and found the development of the robust resource to be a valuable learning experience. “It is important to develop an understanding of some of the community agencies and resources available to patients in our training,” concludes Watson. “Being aware of different community resources available to support patients and the barriers to accessing these services is important in becoming a competent physician.”